14
Jan
2022
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Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza

In 1973’s San Fernando Valley, child-actor Gary Valentine is getting ready to have his high-school yearbook photo taken. However, marching past him is the woman of his dreams. Alana Kane is 25, a photographer’s assistant and has no interest in talking to some precocious school kid. Yet, Gary is a boy who takes his chances and he asks her out on a date. What follows are friendships, fall-outs and an undeniable attraction that still manages to surf all the madnesses that Hollywood can throw at them.

... Licorice Pizza is a quality film that finds another route home, albeit down a familiar path.

So, whilst Paul Thomas Anderson’s ninth feature finds itself in a headlong sleigh-ride of great movies this year, it’s still one that has plenty of unpacked moments to offer you. With a solid narrative that bounces back forth between the twin debuts of Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Alana Haim (from the band *Haim*), this really is a film with nervous joy at its heart. Also, by deliberately ditching any nods towards high-concept themes or a probing subplot, this is probably the happiest Paul Thomas Anderson movie I’ve ever seen. Spiritually closer to Boogie Nights than the pervasive darkness of Let There Be Blood,* this is more Once Upon A Time In Hollywood meets George Lucas’s American Graffiti.

Channelling the awkwardnesses of adolescent youth against adult excesses and temptations that only 1970s California could offer, you have a film here that is both periodic and contemporary.

Typically revelling in the use of an ensemble cast, there are plenty of individually cinematic moments and squirm-inducing laughs. From John C. Reilly’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-him moment as Herman Munster to possibly the most offensively funny use of Japanese you’ll ever hear, Licorice Pizza‘s oversized toppings just keep falling out of the screen. Whether it’s Sean Penn as a faded action star Jack Holden or Bradley Cooper smashing up the screen as a rampant Jon Peters, I’m already grinning at the thought of them.

With so many great vignettes and no mawkish over-the-shoulder nostalgic glances, Licorice Pizza is a quality film that finds another route home, albeit down a familiar path. So, if you’re tired of the pineapple pizazz of superhero movies and repetitive revenge flicks that don’t go anywhere, then grab a slice of Licorice Pizza. It’s an odd combo I know, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find it to your taste.

[Also published in Bild.de on 26.01.2022 in German.]

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